Eco vision: Optical Express launches environmental award challenge

The Eyes on the World Awards aim to “harness the talent and ideas” of university students, challenging teams to develop new ideas to improve sustainability

one world poster
Pexels/Markus Spiske

Optical Express has launched an environmental awards challenge for optometry students in the UK and Ireland, with prizes worth a total of £1m set to be awarded over the next 10 years.

The Eyes on the World Awards will challenge optometry students to develop new ideas to help eye care go green and tackle the climate crisis.

First announced in March 2020, the awards are being relaunched after being postponed as a result of the pandemic.

The 2022 awards are set to open early next year, with students encouraged to keep an eye on Optical Express’s social media channels for the latest announcements. A panel of judges will assess entries to the challenge, with the winning concept to be announced at an awards ceremony in Glasgow in 2022.

The challenge focuses on “harnessing the talent and ideas” of university students, with Optical Express suggesting: “As the most impacted by the worsening climate crisis, young people are powerful advocates for change and often best understand the scale of ambition required.”

The company said it will award a £100,000 prize every year for the next 10 years to the university teams who produce the best proposals for improving the sustainability of the global eye care industry.

On the launch of the challenge, David Moulsdale, founder and chief executive of Optical Express, suggested: “The environmental impact of the eye care sector is less scrutinised than many other industries, but it is still causing serious damage to our planet which we urgently need to address.

“This will require significant and sustained changes to our industry, which is why Optical Express is committing to hold the Eyes on the World Awards annually,” Moulsdale continued. He added that, with leading university optometry departments in the UK, “we need to use these resources to their full potential, harnessing the ideas and ambitions of future optometrists to change our industry for the better.”

A survey by Optical Express in 2019, of more than 3000 contact lens wearers in the UK, found that 97% were disposing of their used lenses “down the drain” or in the bin, and only 3% were recycling them.

With the launch of the award coinciding with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), being held from 31 October – 12 November 2021, Moulsdale said: “As the eyes of the world are on COP26 in Glasgow, it is incumbent on all of us to consider how we can work to reduce the environmental impact of our own sector, and work quickly.”

He suggested that the industry “will need to come together if we are to achieve the real and sustained change we urgently need, and I believe the Eyes on the World Awards represent our best hope of achieving that.”